Covid-19 has sparked fear worldwide and caused panic for the general public when it comes to simple outings like eating dinner at a restaurant or attending a small gathering. As a whole, the restaurant and special event industries have been left to pick up the pieces to survive. From creating spaces that still feel welcoming (even behind a mask), to encouraging health and safety, it’s no small challenge.
Luckily, some of the most creative and strong-willed leaders behind this industry and have pulled together to inspire us all.
ADD OUTDOOR SEATING Organizers with the nonprofit The Better Block call the structure a “parklet.” Their team built the deck-like structure off the sidewalk, in the parking lane of the street. They describe it as an option for expanding outdoor seating.
“Basically, we’ve taken a parking space and converted it into an outdoor café setting,” said Jason Roberts, who owns Revelers Hall and is the founding director of The Better Block. The parklet was built outside his restaurant.
“After the city said we could open to 20 percent occupancy, we were still uncomfortable with having people go inside the restaurant. So, we thought we’ll focus on the outdoor environment,” Roberts said.
So many restaurants have attempted to create instant outdoor seating to accommodate guidelines but have been limited to sidewalk size and more. The Parket is a creative example and practical solution to maximize extra outdoor space, as well as an idea to remind guests that you are open and putting health and safety first.
MODIFY TABLE LAYOUT AND TRAFFIC FLOW INSIDE We all understand the importance of maximizing our space. Currently, the concept has changed to maximize your space while keeping each table a minimum of 6 feet apart, and structuring your restaurant traffic flow to go in a single direction.
“Developing nuanced solutions to a variety of seating types and configurations will be critical to ensuring financial viability while keeping staff and customers safe.” – MASS
TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTION Where traffic may seem intrusive, adding sneeze guards can be a great option to help your guests feel safe.
ENCOURAGE TAKEOUT BY MAKING IT FUN Ordering take-out can feel like you’re missing out on the fun that comes with gathering for dine-in. As take-out takes over, it’s important to help your customers feel like they aren’t also missing out on the experience that your brand creates while dining-in. We love Door Dash’s custom restaurant backgrounds they’ve created to help friends still “gather” together, virtually while enjoying takeout, as well as others who have put together playlists to share with their takeout customers.
We all keep talking about “getting back to normal” soon, but the truth is, no one knows when that “normal” will be or what that will look like. We could be facing more pandemics and problems like this in the future. Beyond creating an inclusive space visually and functionally for your guests, it’s important to create inclusivity by building your local networks and suppliers. Know your local farmers. Get involved in your community. And most importantly, create a safe and welcoming space for your guests with wildly divided viewpoints and differing backgrounds, who may be able to see one commonality during this trying time, a good meal.
What started as a small outbreak in a food market, has changed lives around the world. We’re faced with constant (scary) updates everywhere we turn, everchanging gathering bans, and challenging shortages.
It’s been rough for all small businesses, and the restaurant industry is no exception. But with a bit of flexibility, creativity, and patience, restaurants can survive Covid-19.
MAKE ONLINE ORDERING & DELIVERY EASY: If you haven’t yet, now is an ideal time to transition your restaurant to online ordering, delivery & takeout. While consumers are home, they’re still hungry and not everyone likes to cook. Beyond simply offering online ordering, it’s all about the experience. People have a lot going on, so creating a simple experience is helpful to your customers.
Online ordering and apps are a great option to assist with customer adoption, retention and quality service, but they can substantially cut into your margins.
Here are a few of the most common apps and their fees:
● DoorDash: 20% fee
● Postmates: 15%-30%
● GrubHub: 10% – 20%
● UberEats: up to 30%
PROVIDE A CLEAR MESSAGE:
Business listings – Now that online is your best form of community connection, make sure your website, social accounts, search appearance, and all other business listings all have the same information on them. Your restaurant hours, meal packages (if you have them) and the customer’s options for online orders should be clear.
Online reviews – According to Inc.com, Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Now is more important than ever to ask your customers to review and support your business, and ultimately help inspire new customer acquisition.
Strategic collaborations and Pivots – This is where the creativity comes in. A strategic collaboration with another brand or pivot can help your business survive a challenging time and attract additional media and social exposure.
PROVIDE COMFORT & ASSURANCE: According to Google Trends, “delivery and takeout” searches have gone up 20x since the beginning of March. Making sure you are staffed to accommodate this increase in inquiries, while also making safety a priority is essential. Beyond working on your internal communications and staff awareness, it’s important to communicate with your customer. Telling your customers what you are doing to consider their safety can put their minds at ease and inspire trust in your brand. Adding a banner or section to your website to communicate this information or including a note in to go orders can be easy and effective.
In addition to written and verbal communication, visual communication is also helpful and allows your customers to experience your brand from their comfort zone. Having quality photography (of your menu items and space) sets realistic expectations and makes ordering easy.
While you continue to navigate the uncharted waters of operating a restaurant during the Covid-19 crisis, remember you’re not alone, your customers and community want to support you, and so do we.